"...79h 06min - I never thought I could plan a few weeks earlier, the exact time, to the minute, of finishing PBP, but somehow i did it"

Pedro Alves
Randonneurs Portugal Nº20100001
Paris Brest Paris 2023

José Ferreira Randonneurs Portugal Nº201300045 Paris Brest Paris 2019

| Paris-Brest-Paris –  Is a rugged 1200-kilometer Randonneur event every four years in France. The route spans from Paris to Brest and back, boasting demanding terrain and surprising weather conditions | 


Filomena, André (the boss), and Beta keep me in an excellent mood across the 1200k

PLAN R (ecumbent) 

My road to PBP 2023 began during COVID-19 as I wondered if I was to mistreat my body in my 4th participation following 2011, 2015, and 2019.

The hard truth is – As I got older, my body no longer enjoyed being pushed around like a few years ago – If PBP was to be, I needed to figure out a way of making my life easier “on the saddle” (or as it turned out to be… without the need for a saddle).

Since my last PBP, I had my fair share of body signs and timely reminders that my body is finite and not built to be shoved around. If I needed a more gentle reminder, my heart intervention in 2021 made it crystal clear.

How could I make my PBP easier?

My 1st hypothesis was a Velomobile – Would a Velomobile allow me to ride longer with less effort and more comfort?

Quattrovelo, the most incredible and intricate bike I owned

That was not to be. The Quattrovelo I got was too slow, heavy, and stress-prone for my knees.

But the Quattrovelo was an eye-opener for someone who always rode upright bicycles – apparently, there was another for riding long distances – recumbent position.

On the other hand – as someone reminds me – “If those lay-back bikes were the way to go,” everybody would ride one. That’s a point I always remember in my velomobile/recumbent days.

The 2nd hypothesis came entirely out of the blue – a recumbent.

To cut the story short – I borrowed an M5 from a randonneur friend (Bruno Antunes), and to my surprise, I stayed “upright” on my 1st attempts.

The M5 – The Frog – has something that bonds with me; she and I hate climbing, so we got along pretty nicely.

I was never convinced I could learn to ride a downright different bicycle from nil and then be skilled enough to ride the 1200k PBP. At first, I just wanted to understand if this recumbent thing was a “toy” or if I could do serious riding, most notably if this bike would make my life easier at PBP.
Surprisingly, the Frog made my life more manageable and comfortable.

In retrospect, would I prefer to ride PBP2023 in an upright bike like in 2011, 15, and 19? 

No. Definitely not.


Photo: PBP Comunity | Hummm, those cleats are not on the best position.


When I signed up for PBP, I 1st opted for the 90-hour start, but soon after riding a 400k Brevet with a night start, I changed my mind and opted again for the 84-hour.

I would go for a 2023 Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K with my tried “four days” approach. The 84-hour group is smaller, it’s easier to navigate the bike in small groups, and the controls are less crowded. I also anticipated that mass start events and recumbents wouldn’t mix if I wanted to avoid trouble.

The 84-hour sets up for two sleep breaks at Loudeac and a third at Mortagne-au-Perche; my objective was to ride mainly during the day. I aimed to reach Paris in about 80 hours with three long sleep stops as I did in 2011/15/19.

The catch was – I have never ridden a recumbent for more than 600k. 

I have ridden the Frog only for 12 months and +- 5K, so I anticipated some surprises. 

What troubled me most was the body’s reaction to the recumbent position for a long time. 

As far as the Km I’ve done, I was confident enough. My strategy has always been to keep my annual mileage as low as possible to cycle for as many years as possible. It’s not easy to replace a knee, an arm, or a heart :-)


Photo: Jorge Nabais


In Rambouillet, the first surprise – the V wave (84h special bikes) was a tiny group of 20 randonneurs – some tandems, a few velomobiles, and other recumbents. It was a very different experience from my three previous large-pack 84-hour upright starts. It reminded me of our Portuguese Brevets, where groups are always small.


Just before the start, Duarte Nuno surprised me with a visit to wish me good luck. It was a thoughtful gesture that lifted my spirits!

A few moments after the start, a fellow recumbent rider asked me – Are you Portuguese? I met Paulo Miranda, and we talked for a few Km. Our ways would cross several times over the 1200k+

Shortly, the first big group of 84h riders (W wave) powered past with their bodies tucked in aero bars – I thought this was a randonneur event ;-)

This year, I learned not to press hard to stay with upright riders during the 1st hours of Brevets, so they went into the rising sun.

Stopwise, I had a second breakfast at Mortagne-au-Perche (km 120), ate some pasta I brought ahead, and had another short meal at Villaines La Juhel (km 203), also pasta with tomato juice that I carried with me.

I reached Fougeres, realizing that PBP would not be a piece of cake for a newbie recumbent rider.

I spent an hour or so lunching and off to Tinteniac, now in a terrain that better suited the Frog, before heading to Loudeac for my first sleep stopover.

Second PBP surprise – Sun and hot temperatures – I am glad I use a Camelback. Unfortunately, I did not bring suncream, a noteworthy flaw for my lips.

I arrived at Loudeac at 22:56, a bit earlier than I expected. It allowed me to shower, eat, and sleep for 5 hours. So far, so good; this is how I enjoy riding PBP.

André, aka, The boss, checking if the Randonneur is ok to go


Today, the 1st challenge was reaching Brest at 170 kilometers.

I got to Carhaix at 10:00 and chatted with Paulo Campelo, who was already returning to Paris.

From now on, route-wise, it was all bad news for me: hilly stretches and no more rolling hills.

Somewhere along the route, Paulo Miranda caught up with me on his Performer recumbent, and we rode a few km together.

On the ride up to Roc Travezel, we joined Jack Holmgren wearing a conspicuous and visible Santa Cruz Randonneurs jersey. We chatted a bit, drank a coffee offered to us by a couple of friendly Bretons, took a picture at the top of Roc Travezel, and off I went downhill. 


Photo: Jack | Drinking a sip of coffee with Jack and Paulo at the top of Roc Travezel

I arrived at Brest just before 14:30, two hours ahead of my plan, so I spent an hour eating and finding the courage to climb out of Brest.

Every time I reach the Atlantic Ocean in Brest, I always wish to spend time checking the docks for cool ocean-going sailboats. Next time!

At the Brest pedestrian bridge, I found another mate from Randonneurs Portugal, Moab; we took the characteristic Brest bridge picture and rode away together until the 1st climb, where I kept grinding my low gears, expecting the best and averaging very low speeds.


With Moab at the iconic bridge at Best. Now we need to get back.

From Brest, everything could have been more enjoyable; steep roads and recumbents aren’t a perfect match, at least for me. 

On the way to Carhaix, the secret control at Pleyben delivered a short rest stop where I managed to tumble from the bike. No harm done.

Carhaix seemed further than it should. I managed to get there by 22:00, had a quick dinner, and then tried to race to Loudeac and get some sleep.

I hate planning, but I like a plan. My ride plan said I should be at Loudeac at 02:13. I got there at 02:03 and felt good; after all, I had no clue how to handle this amount of climbing on the Frog.

Finally, I could sleep from these very tiring 340km. I Slept for 4 hours, and off I went.


The morning ride went smoothly. I saw many exhausted 90-hour riders barely holding their line; giving them the room is crucial to avoid trouble.

Finally, I was again averaging 25km/h with the Frog to Tinteniac, which was good. The bad news was my sore Achilles tendon and my knees.

I got to Fougères around 14:00 to have the lunch I carried with me; the café au lait I bought at the control was also good enough ;-)

Someplace on the route to Villaines, I spotted Júlio Caroça’s bike outside a café and chose to stop for another café au lait and a quick chat in Portuguese. 

We left and rode together for a few km; he climbed faster, so we said our goodbyes. I confirmed that recumbents are not social bikes.


With Júlio drinking a cafè au lait on the way to Mortagne-au-Perche

It was a hard segment as I was dragging myself to Villaines, as my Achilles tendon got worse, I was a lot more careful about not pressing on flats and descents, and so when I got to Villaines (1018 km), I was for the 1st time behind my plan just 20 minutes but behind.

I caught Pawel and and Nuno also making plans to go to Mortagne. I had some dinner, and off I went for another 4-hour ride to Mortagne-au-Perche.


Photo: Nuno | Caught with Nuno at Mortagne

Shortly after leaving Villaines, I passed a fallen rider getting emergency aid, a reminder that PBP is not an incredible adventure for everybody and that fatigue can put us in poor circumstances.

Mortagne seemed to be where my riding plan would be scratched; nevertheless, I kept pedaling, hoping for a good night’s sleep. On the final climb to Mortagne, an Alpha 7 cruised around me on a 7% slope. Impressive.

I got to Mortagne at 00:33, 45 minutes after what I anticipated in Lisbon when I drafted my riding schedule. As soon as I got to Mortagne, I went straight to sleep; no bath tonight :-)


After sleeping 4.5 hours, it was time to jump on the bike. After three days, it looked more like a chaise long compared to what my hands and sore backside experienced in previous PBP editions.

The route from Mortagne to Dreux is the one I like the least in PBP. I have in the back of my mind the intense moments of 2015.

In 2019, I rode this stretch with José Ferreira; we ate a croissant along this stretch, making it more enjoyable. This time, I and the Frog were heading to Dreux, attempting to flee the incoming rain. We despise rain and much as steep hills.

My additional and special 2023 PBP Jersey… that I forgot to pack

Tradition says that it rains somewhere on PBP. Tradition is not what it used to be; no rain for me. Speaking of conventions, I also noticed some scarcity of Randonneur soul on this PBP; maybe it’s a large number of riders, the quest for just another “extreme” experience, or too many aero bars on racing mode.

At Dreux, I met my fellow recumbent friend Paulo again; he was leaving with a velomobile friend, and I was docking.

I prefer the 2019 approach to Rambouillet, but this year’s route was fine. I pedaled along with the Frog. The only highlight of the final 42km was my encounter with a Romanian Randonneur who borrowed me his wheel at 45 km/h for a few km, as I wondered how on earth a solo ride on an upright bike would be this fast after 1200km, I saluted him and gave him my last Randonneurs Portugal pin and off he went blazing.

I finished relatively well after 12:05 and was happy with my ride options and decisions.


  1. My PBP endeavors are only possible with Filomena and the magic sleeping van – There are more straightforward approaches to PBP, but I pick this one.
  2. This PBP, André, my nephew, came to experience PBP – He was a tremendous helping hand to me and other Randonneurs with the curiosity, high spirits, and generosity that make him a great 13-year-old lad
  3.  Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad choices – It was a good decision for my body’s health to drop upright bikes from long-distance cycling. I became wiser, yet stupid enough not to have learned yet that my body was not made for this.
  4. 79h 06min – I never thought I could plan a few weeks earlier, the exact official time, to the minute, of finishing PBP, but I did it.

I hate planning, but I like to have a plan. It was an incredible coincidence but a very impressive one.PBP2023_Pedro Alves_10

  1. For a recumbent newbie, I am happy to finish 2023 PBP – I am sluggish going up, which was noticeable riding with other recumbent Randonneurs.
    My bike fit could be better, and I need to sort out some knee pains.
    So I am still the newbie recumbent rider from Randonneurs Portugal who finished for the 1st time PPB in a special bike.
  2. PBP is always an excellent way to connect with other Randonneurs from other countries and people I was inspired by – I managed to say hello to Paul, Mark, Tal, Francesc, Jack, Miko, Emilio, Patrick, Sergey, Rob, Brent and many others I indeed forgot to mention here.

With Sergey

Photo: Patrick | With Patrick at the finish


With Francesc… a PBP legend | 12 PBP editions and founder of the LRM

Will I return in four years?

Over time, I learned that one can always say yes regarding PBP. 

I also learned that as you get older and slower, it’s not as fun, especially because 1200k’s for me are always a “race to sleep properly” and to minimize the minor, sometimes more significant, physical mishaps. 

In 4 years, I would prefer not to have the urge to ride it again, as I know that I risk losing a life every time. Cats have 7; humans, I have no idea..

Thanks to all the volunteers who made possible the 20th edition of Paris-Brest-Paris!

Até Breve(t)